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Would You Use a Wooden Water Pipe for Plumbing?

Gregory

Everyone has their own opinion and personal preference of which tools work best for which job, but I’m sure everyone can agree that advancements in technology are definitely necessary. Could you imagine if we still used wooden pipes for plumbing? What would it be like for you to work on and repair issues with those?

 

wooden pipe, water, plumbing, history, pampa, texas, publick works, 1700s, 1800s, 1900s, history, innovation, technology, plumber, piping, pipe, cast iron, galvanized steel, pexOne plumbing company in Texas just discovered a rare wooden pipe that could date back to the 1890s. According to the city of Pampa’s Director of Public Works Gary Turley, by the 1920s the city “had begun using cast iron and galvanized steel pipes for water.” Nowadays, most plumbers use steel, PEX, or any other number of materials, but surely not wood. So where did this ancient wooden one come from?

 

It actually could have been in existence before the town of Pampa was even incorporated. Back in the 1700s, wooden pipes were the staple; cities would use hollowed-out logs to work with their water systems. We’ve come a long way since then, that’s for sure. But still, imagine having your water supply running through a wooden pipe like this.

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The wooden pipe will be donated by William Bridgeman of Little Bill’s Plumbing to the White Deer Land Museum in order to preserve history, educate others, and to share the journey that not only the city of Pampa has gone through, but also the plumbing community and civilization as a whole.

 

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19 Responses to Would You Use a Wooden Water Pipe for Plumbing?

  1. Charles Rockwell says:

    We have had some sections of water supply lines replaced that were made of wood in Troy, N.Y.

    • Gregory says:

      Thanks for your comment, Charles! It’s amazing to think that those supply lines were made of wood years ago, and actually worked well.

  2. Bob Hathaway says:

    The home in northern Vermont I grew up in had been moved to its location in 1848. The water was pumped from Lake Champlain (about 300 feet distant) through what my father called “Pump Logs”. These were 4 foot logs drilled out with a pointed on one end and a cone on the other. Supposedly the logs points and cones were coated with (I believe pine pitch) and pushed or driven into each other to seal. The log system finally failed and was replaced with pipe in the early 1920. I wish my father had saved some of them, but at the time he considered them of no value. Unfortunately I only have the stories my deceased father passed along to me to relate to this.

    • Gregory says:

      Bob, we really appreciate you sharing your story with us! It’s amazing to hear about your experiences with wooden pipe. It’s remarkable how ingenious people were back then, taking the supplies they had and making them work for their needs. Even though you don’t have any tangible reminders of those “Pump Logs,” you’ll always have the stories your father shared with you, and those are priceless. Thanks again for passing your story along to the rest of us.

  3. KEN ZUVER says:

    JUST RECEIVED YOUR SALE E-MEIL TO DO WITH WOODEN PIPEING AND THOUGHT I WOULD SHARE THIS WITH YOU MY WIFE WAS INTO ANTIQUES AND SOMEWHERE BOUGHT A WOODEN PUMP WITH THE ATACHED WOODEN PIPEING SOMEWAT SMALLER BUT STILL WOOD

    • Gregory says:

      Hi Ken! That is so cool that your wife actually came across one of those and purchased it. Plus, it had the original piping with a wooden pump. That’s such a unique piece of history!

  4. Cranston says:

    Hard to belive, but yes. I live in Mt.Vernon, Illinois and I have seen wooden water main still in use a few years ago. I have a piece in my collection.

    • Gregory says:

      Cranston, it’s amazing to hear that up until a few years ago the wooden water main was still in use! I can’t believe that. It also sounds like a really cool piece to have in your collection.

  5. Graham Buxton says:

    NY Times story from 2009 on wooden water pipes at Lake Chelan WA (with photos):
    https://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/18/us/18water.html

    • Gregory says:

      Thanks for sharing that NY Times article, Graham! It’s great to see how widely used wooden water pipes were. They’re a part of our history that are so overlooked, and it’s nice to take a look at our roots, too. I’m sure almost every town used wooden pipes at some point…which is crazy to think about now.

  6. Randy white says:

    The town of Nederland Colorado had wooden water mains which were in use up until the early 1970’s as I recall. The town got a grant from the Feds I believe to replace them in the seventies. I can remember these mains routinely freezing and breaking in the winter. Never worked on them myself, but I can recall hearing of some creative patches being invented to get the system operating again. Never took less than a week, usually several for the water to run again.
    I don’t imagine Supply House has any fittings for these pipes, but if they do, I’d like see one!

    Randy White
    Ridgeline Constuction

    • Gregory says:

      Randy, it’s surprising to hear that those water mains were used until the 1970’s! But that also goes to show that when they were built, they were definitely built to last. Although I imagine it wasn’t fun for anyone when they would freeze and break in the winter. Thanks for sharing your experience with wooden water pipes!

  7. Andrew P Baker says:

    Wood water mains were very common starting in the late 1700s. Pretty impressive that many of them lasted over a hundred years. During Boston’s big dig to bury I95 they removed the last wood water mains that were still in use in New England. Philadelphia has been removing the 45 miles of known, but previously decommissioned, wood water main since 2017 and the logs are coming up very intact.

    • Gregory says:

      It does seem that wooden water mains have a long and rich history across many geographic areas, Andrew. I myself am more than a little impressed at how long many of them have been known to last! I think it would be so cool to work on removing those wooden water mains, and to have the chance to interact with a piece of rich history such as that. Still so amazing that they’re intact.

  8. Mitch Moschetti says:

    A friend of mine of here in Asheville, NC had a summer job on the Biltmore Estate in high school, circa 1970. He told me of having to dig up old “pipes” that consisted of three roughly 6″ dia. logs laid in a triangle (envision drawing 3 circles touching), which left a small triangular shaped channel, or conduit, down the middle for water. Some of these were hundreds of feet long under the fields. He said nobody knew how old they were (main house was built in the 1890’s), but some sections still looked pretty serviceable.

    • Gregory says:

      Mitch, thank you so much for contributing to this great discussion! Like so many other comments, I’m surprised at how many people have interacted personally or heard of others coming across these wooden water mains. Your description really does paint a picture in my mind, which only enhances this already interesting story. When you say that there were hundreds of feet of this wooden piping, that only makes this all the more intriguing! It truly is amazing how, hundreds of years ago, this was all built and to this day, there is so much of it still intact.

  9. art says:

    Can someone explain why the logs did not rot?
    Seems a dead tree stump rots away in a few years.

  10. Steven says:

    My answer would be yes!
    Just Google “wood stave pipe” and get lost in reading about this wonderful application of wood for a utility. Entire towns were once plumbed with this stuff for both water and sewer. Mines used them extensively. All beginning about 200 yrs ago.
    The “old timers” were actually a lot smarter than they are given credit and certainly more so than most modern folk.

    • Gregory says:

      Thanks for your comment, Steven! It is true that hundreds of years ago, when there wasn’t modern plumbing, they had to make do with what they had, and they really did that well. Those wooden pipes seem to be made to last!

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